Friday, February 21, 2014

Doing Time.

Time is a great leveler. Time proves persons and unrolls a line of life works scrutiny.

This last week, our family carried out an exercise in public service scrutiny. We “met” the Port of Bellingham. I have lived in Whatcom County since Dec 30, 1994, but there is so much that I have not known. In the late 1990’s, I worked as an electrician on the total remodel of the Port of Bellingham office building. I have not passed through those doors again until three days ago, Tuesday afternoon.

First impressions—the port commissioners meeting reminded me of a school board meeting.  The executive, Rob Fix sat at a table with the three commissioners and the executive secretary. A panel of department managers and the legal counsel sat at the second table. Managers gave reports and commissioners voted on various items.

The meeting started with public comment. The frequent fliers were there representing the progressive lobby. Along with their causes of environmental concern and “job creation”, they raised an unholy ruckus over the lack of a video record of the boards meetings. Even county commissioner Rud Browne showed up to grace the effort, suggesting that the Port administrators partner join the happy technology and services that the County will likely roll out – some enhanced video airings of the County Council meetings. Browne said he was speaking as a private citizen, of course!?

Why the screaming call for video? I would suggest the progressive movement and its media allies in Bellingham have an insatiable appetite for public controversy. If you have a degree in a field that lends itself to “community organizing”, you must have stories to fire up your neighborhood controversies. Visuals can be groomed to just the right “message”, and every traditional service can be “retooled” into another cog for the progressive redistribution of wealth machine.

Of course, access to audio or video recordings of port meetings does provide archival records which are a part of due public process.  And, if the Port Authority is moving towards providing such, a person with balance will be grateful and patient, rather than pompous and demanding.

What were we doing at the Port? Our family home schools. As our young people consider life works, we have pushed an entrepreneurial mindset. A major aspect in business startups is capital development and application. In other words, getting and growing money by providing worthwhile services. When I heard that the Port may do an RFP (request for proposal) for video services, we decided to walk a few hundred feet in those shoes. My daughter and I took some simple video equipment in, and recorded about 45 minutes of the 2.5 hour meeting.

The video turned out fine. Sound quality was variable. The Port’s AV system has an upgrade expense line in the budget. Commissioner McCauley has a problem projecting his voice. Otherwise, he did a very acceptable job of keeping the meeting moving. We tested microphone and camera placements. We would need to upgrade our equipment. What else is new! It was a good chance to meet some of the decision makers.

We also watched a bit of a side show, as another group did a video recording dry run. Somehow they obtained a WI-FI hotspot on the port’s network—without adequate authorization. They wanted to demo live streaming. When the hotspot was discovered and taken from them, there was a howl of protest about the Port obscuring its public meetings. Otherwise, they made their recording peaceably as well.

On the home front, this last month has been full with farm projects. More hay has been purchased and brought in. Broken trailer wheel brakes still need repair. A small portable egg laying hen house was designed and put together with the boys. Maybe there will be some takers if this is offered to urban farmers under the new chickens in the back yard rules.

Lambing is in full swing. It is a joy to see new life squirt out, dry off and begin to crave milk. It is sad when newborns are missed and cool off and die. It is a hassle when the baby monitor in the barn transmits those “groans” at three in the morning. The fresh sheep’s milk, and the improved health of our daughter on that milk makes it worth while.

This week, my wife Bev has been attending a three day seminar on cheese making, a five hundred dollar gift from a fellow farmer who decided to not attend and share his seat. Thank you, my friend! It is kindnesses like this that build community.

Farming is hard work. Milking animals is slogging hard work, with limited respites. Making cheese is also hard work. Burnout and personal physical injuries are issues we as adults in our fifth decade of life must consider. Again, the pressures of fast capital infusion are evident, as that new creamery equipment others at the cheese making class are buying must be quickly brought on line to pay down the loans. We have survived with the willing help of family who work together. And by staying out of debt. We are “doing our own time” in our life shackles.

Yesterday, with my wife out of the saddle, I went with our young people to an after school club they lead at Kendall Elementary School. Forewarned, I went prepared to ride shotgun on a certain group of boys that have been turning the club into their own ego show.

Sure enough, a cherubic little ten year old drank his milk quickly, then put the carton down and stomped out a loud pop, easing back in “surprise” when all heads turned his way. Too busy to eat their snacks during the snack time, the boys settled down to discuss their concerns in the back row while they loudly chomped their food in contest with the leader up front.

After an hour of moving ten year old boys farther and farther apart, things settled down to a dull roar in the back row. It is amazing the energy protesters have when there is a joint cause. It is also amazing the grateful responses of little girls who wait for these boys to be quieted so they can peacefully do the games and hear the stories.

So, I return to public comments at the port. Sometimes, the little boys and girls never grow up inside, becoming adults who still love to show off in public comment. Do they seek the public good? Or, are they more concerned with turns of wit, with showing off extraneous knowledge while they take down leaders who have “done their time” and proven themselves in public service. These activists are also doing time, but in a different prison.

                -- JK